Is there any hope that the crisis in Afenifere would be resolved, at least in the interest of Yoruba nation?
In retrospect, the crisis in Afenifere started from 1998, when the ban on politics was lifted and its leaders, who fought gallantly in the struggle against the late Gen Sani Abacha’s military government and the restoration of democratic rule in Nigeria were hurled into the transition they never prepared for.
Having come from the trenches, it was a transition for the principled commitment to the fight to liberate Nigeria from the clutches of late Gen. Abacha and handing over of the fruit of the fight to a bunch of opportunists that did not share the founders’ vision, but simply wanted to use Afenifere and NADECO platforms to advance their selfish course.
The opportunists were very smart to have realised then that for anybody to do anything in Yoruba land, especially politics wise, there was the need to go through Afenifere, because the group leaders had proven themselves, and people believed them as leaders who could lead them at the most difficult period in the country.
Those were the days when you visited Pa Abraham Adesanya’s residence in Apapa Lagos, and you would see credible personalities sitting inside the drainage just to have papa’s attention. But I think the mistake the organisation’s leadership made then was to have thought most of the people around them shared similar vision.
I remembered when the 1999 election was on, majority of those that secured governorship tickets and other political offices were not those raised in the proper Afenifere tradition. They simply took the caps and put them on.
Unfortunately, Afenifere leaders also allowed the so-called democracy to prevent them from seeing through those surrounding them, because if they had insisted on the type of people they wanted in each state, I don’t think anybody could have done anything about it. After all, the late Bola Ige did it in Oyo and Osun States.
Chief Bisi Akande, former governor of Osun was not in the race at all. We were in Ijebu Igbo when they asked all those wanting to be governor to step out, and Chief Akande didn’t indicate interest.
He was just siting down before Chief Ige shouted at him, “Bisi won’t you go out?” There were frontliners with resources who were aspiring to be governors during Abacha’s time. I don’t think Chief Akande could have spent N100, 000 of his money to contest for the governorship of Osun State in 1999.
The same thing happened in Oyo State when Chief Ige stepped in and Chief Lam Adesina became governor of the state. I think Afenifere leaders simply allowed democracy to operate.
While Afenifere leaders thought in 1999 that they were being altruistic, wanting to bring everybody together around their agenda, with the aim to usher in democracy and push for restructuring, they went round the states to pass resolution on restructuring, but they never knew there was a small group under them, which had a plan to supplant Afenifere and come up with its own agenda.
When the leaders were busy planning for the transition and thinking about restructuring and Yoruba interest, the small group was behind the stoppage of Bola Ige from becoming AD presidential candidate. So, this small group innocuously planned Ige’s defeat and loss to Chief Olu Falae.
The same people who facilitated Ige’s defeat moved to his side to fight Afenifere leaders. The group’s aim was to destroy what the old men stood for. We had all kinds of crises in AD, which led to the split of the party, and we had to spend almost four years settling the crises. I was secretary of many committees.
I remember that the last effort was the committee set up under Chief C.O Adebayo from Kwara State. Jimi Agbaje, Bayo Adenekan, Gen Alani Akinrinade and myself met Chief Ige in his house at Ibadan few days before he was killed. We went round and it was crisis upon crisis, whereas this small group had a plan and was working towards realisation of its agenda.
I remember when Ige was killed, it became so bad that even during his funeral, these people would not allow a proper funeral. An empty casket was brought to Lagos.
Ige’s body was not in the casket and they never allowed the casket to be brought to Afenifere’s secretariat at Jibowu, where the leaders were waiting to pay him the last respect.
Members of the tiny group felt relieved that since Ige had gone, they could then battle the rest of the elders to a standstill. That was how the crisis continued, to the extent that we now had factions of AD with one under Chief Bisi Akande and Chief Akinfenwa as National Vice Chairman.
There was another error. In the process of resolving the crisis, Pa Adesanya became ill and I could say it was the crisis that killed him. It was in the course of reconciliations that he developed stroke and he never recovered till his death.
On January 4, 2004, we had a stormy session after which the crisis became fierce between Akinfenwa and Akande. I think the mistake Afenifere leadership made was not to see through what was going on. They didn’t see it as a winnable battle and some of us following them said we couldn’t continue this way.
Afenifere leaders said they would recognise Akinfenwa, but we that belonged to the younger generation warned them that they were not the electoral commission that would recognise anybody in the first instance. But they went ahead to recognise Akinfenwa, which made some us to pull back. But that error was an innocent one, because we later learnt that there was a gentleman in Lagos, Alhaji Rafiu Jafojo who was selling a dummy that once every leader takes a side, that side would be recognised by the electoral umpire.
When the crisis continued unabated, it was in the process that some of us that had been scattered in different directions, due to the crisis now decided on what to do.
In 1999, we had some of the most promising, talented and organised Yoruba people. We had a vibrant committee headed by Chief C.O Adebayo and Agbaje was the secretary, but in the course of the crises, they all scattered in different directions.
In the process, discussions started among the younger generation. We started talking, and people like Agbaje, Wale Oshun, Ayo Afolabi and myself and the rest of us that what do we do. We couldn’t continue any longer. We had to invite other people of like minds to come on board, and that was how the idea of the Ibadan IITA Retreat came up. It was a three-day event. We had different sessions, and the event was graced by (now) Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Kola Awodehin, among others.
On the last day of the conference, we concluded that we should invite our leaders and use the opportunity to bring them together to resolve the crisis, so that we could all come together and start afresh. We never realised that the forces we were contending with are very strong and already had plans.
The meeting went well, but something happened: While Pa Olaniwun Ajayi was talking, he said, ‘you younger people, I want you to know that no amount of clothes a young person has, he cannot has the number of rags an elder has.’ This means younger people can never have as much experience like the elders.
After he finished speaking, Baba Akande came forward and said, ‘young boys and girls, I wouldn’t want to wear rags. Please, get me some of the new clothes that you have.’ Thereafter, an altercation ensued among Chief Ajayi, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Akande and others, to the extent that the meeting ended on a sad note.
We returned to Lagos and we started meeting at Bisi Adegbuyi’s Event Centre at Magodo, where we reasoned we would use that retreat to reconcile all the warring factions.